Introducing Ardi

Introducing Ardi Photo Credit: J.H. Matternes. 2009. All rights reserved.
Recently, scientists announced a series of findings related to what paleoarchaeologists believe is a hominid ancestor who lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.

Ardipithecus ramidus, affectionately nicknamed Ardi, was unearthed over the course of several years in the mid-'90s in an area known as Middle Awash, where scientists located more than 125 bone fragments from the same female skeleton.

Since then, scientists from around the world have been studying various aspects of what these bone fragments and other fossils suggest about this ancient hominid and the area where she lived in an effort to create a more detailed picture of the past.

In the October 2, 2009, issue of Science, more than 40 of these scientists from across a broad range of disciplines came together to release 11 research articles that give us that fuller picture. In it, we learn, among other things, that this creature walked upright, but had an opposable big toe that allowed it to climb trees and walk along their boughs; that Ardi did not have the knuckle-walking abilities of today's chimpanzees or gorillas, meaning that its hands were flexible; and that it lived in an area of forestland, not in the savannah, as had previously been hypothesized.

These are exciting revelations about the evolution of human beings and their ancestors. Science NetLinks is proud to offer the following resources to give students the chance to learn more about Ardi, paleontology, evolution, and prehistoric theories.
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  • Fossils 1: Fossils and Dinosaurs

    Fossils 1: Fossils and Dinosaurs

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will explore what can be learned from fossils, how they are formed, and the difference between fact and theory.
  • Fossils 2: Uncovering the Facts

    Fossils 2: Uncovering the Facts

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students explore how information is gained by studying fossils and see how fossil facts can be based on comparisons with living organisms.
  • The Rise and Fall of the Mammoths

    The Rise and Fall of the Mammoths

    6-8  |  Interactive
    This lesson will help students to examine the evidence for evolution using the woolly mammoth and related species, of which there happens to be a sizable fossil record.
  • Comparing Theories: Lamarck and Darwin

    Comparing Theories: Lamarck and Darwin

    This lesson provides an opportunity for students to compare the theories of two historically important evolutionary scientists: Jean Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin.


  • Nowhere to Hide

    Nowhere to Hide

    K-12  |  Interactive
    This interactive is based on the classic story of evolution by natural selection—the story of the peppered moths in England during the Industrial Revolution.
  • Becoming Human

    Becoming Human

    9-12  |  Interactive
    This resource is an interactive documentary that tells the story of our origins.

Science Updates

  • Hominid Diet

    Hominid Diet

    6-11  |  Audio
    Learn about what fossils reveal about the unusual diet of early hominids.
  • Primitive Ape-Man

    Primitive Ape-Man

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, hear about an important piece of the human family tree scientists recently found.

AAAS Resources

 Ardi cover of Science MagazineArdipithecus ramidus
Grade Band: 9-12
Description: Science offers a collection of articles on the significance of Ardipithecus ramidus. Free registration is required to view some of the materials. The topics covered range from how the habitat of Ethiopia has changed to the evolution of upright walking to tie-ins to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published 150 years ago. Other links take the reader to the transcript of an online chat, video of the press conference announcing the findings, and background on the authors of the papers.

The Analysis of Ardipithecus ramidus by Science MagazineThe Analysis of Ardipithecus ramidus—One of the Earliest Known Hominids
Grade Band: 9-12
Description: This Science video provides background information on Ardipithecus ramidus, including the work related to the dig in Middle Awash, why it took so long for these studies to come out after the initial discoveries were made, and what significance these findings have for creating a more complete picture of the human family tree. The video includes interviews from several experts (including the project's co-director) as well as some interesting graphics.

Science Magazine Podcast
Grade Band: 9-12
Description: This excerpt from the Science podcast offers various perspectives on the significance of the Ardi discovery and what hypotheses can be drawn from the evidence.

Other Resources

Discovering Ardi
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: This Discovery Channel production is the official website for students interested in learning about Ardipithecus ramidus. It offers many great interactive pieces and narrative pieces.

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